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Christmas 2003

Christmas 2003:


Margie Cash's December 2003 Yuletide Anthology

The holidays are bitter-sweet for us this year as we continue to adjust to the loss of Amber Lynn. In some ways, it seems hard to believe that it’s been over six months since that fateful July 4th weekend; but, in other ways, it seems like an eternity has passed. Regardless of our perspective, it’s accurate to say that we still miss her very much!

We had no idea that 2002 would be Amber’s last Christmas here on earth. In fact, last year, we were in the midst of moving from Smyrna to Cartersville when the holidays arrived, so much of that holiday season was a blur. But, these are pictures we took of Amber next to my Christmas tree in my Cartersville townhome.

“I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below;
with tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars, reflecting in the snow.
The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear;
for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs the people hold so dear;
but the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here!
I know how much you miss me; I see the pain inside your heart;
but I am not so far away; we really aren’t apart.

So be happy for me, dear o­nes, you know I hold you dear;
and be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I sent you each a special gift from my Heavenly home above;
I sent you each a memory of my undying love.

After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold;
it was always most important in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other; as my Father said to do;
for I can’t count the blessings or love he has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear;
remember I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.”
(
Author Unknown)

In mid-December, I received an email from the pastor of Banks Community United Methodist Church in Banks, Oregon. He had happened upon my www.margiecash.com website and wrote the following:

Dear Margie,

Hi! My name is Brian Shimer.  I’m a pastor in Banks, OR and happened upon your website because of what must be a “life verse” or a favorite verse that you have in your heading.  I was researching Philippians 4 a bit in the early a.m. hours because I am up with a cold and couldn’t sleep and up you came.  I will be preaching Philippians 4:13 in a couple weeks.  Do you have any testimony on how you have experienced this verse in your life?  Just wondering.

May Jesus Christ truly be your strength and joy today. God bless your Christmas with your children (cute pictures) and grandchildren! 

Brian Shimer

At first, I was somewhat tongue-tied and uncertain how to respond, since Pastor Brian obviously had no knowledge of Amber’s passing, but I felt an obligation (if not a compulsion!) to reaffirm what Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”) had meant to me over the past 25 years, and especially in the year 2003! So, I sat down and composed the following response to Pastor Shimer:

Dear Pastor Brian,

Philippians 4:13 is indeed a “life verse,” as is Matthew 6:33. In fact, I am in the process of writing a book that will chronicle my personal testimony over the past twenty-five years. My story will be told against a Scriptural backdrop of Old Testament Israel as they struggled to reach “The Promised Land” amidst great trial and tribulation (not to mention sin and rebellion!).

To give you a bit of the “condensed” version, I was the child of a WWII Marine Corps veteran who became an alcoholic to forget the war and the many friends and fellow soldiers he helped bury after three weeks of intense fighting on Iwo Jima. My dad was a man of great, personal integrity, but his life was shortened by alcohol abuse and smoking, and he left many scars for his family to deal with as a result of his drinking. He died of a heart attack in 1978 on my mother’s birthday.

Three years later, my husband of ten years found someone else and left me and our four-year-old son, Chip, for “greener pastures.” During that ordeal, I recommitted myself to Christ. As a child, I had given my life to Jesus at the age of eight, but for twenty-three years, He was to be a mere shadow in my life that often haunted my wayward and sinful steps at the most annoying times! But, in the throws of divorce, Jesus drew me back to Him and became Lord of my life, as well as Savior, for the first time. Consequently, I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit on August 8, 1981, and my life has never been the same since!

This is not to say that my life since then has always been easy. As a woman scorned, I experienced the typical sting of isolation and estrangement that comes from an unwanted divorce. As a single parent, I experienced the loneliness and frustration of trying to be both mother and father to a young son while working full time and attending graduate classes at night. And, to make matters worse, I attempted a second marriage in 1983 that ended in divorce fifteen months later. So my self-esteem reached an all-time low as I wondered how I could have so completely missed God’s leading in my life and injected even more turmoil and confusion into my son’s life. As a result of that failed relationship, I made a conscious decision to not complicate our lives with another marriage, at least until my son was grown. Chip is now twenty-six, and I am still single, but happy and fulfilled!

In telling you my personal testimony, I could talk for hours about codependency, divorce, single parenthood, extreme career burnout, loneliness, and financial hardship. Or, I could tell you about my congenital arthritis that has led to two major back surgeries and four, premature, joint replacements, or about my six OB/GYN surgeries, or my other miscellaneous surgeries (twenty-five in all!). But, the bigger testimony is not what I’ve been through, but the fact that I made it through at all! Without Christ, I could not have made it through the deeper valleys in my life; but with Him, I have survived and thrived. 

One of the medical problems that I have struggled with through the years has been severe sleep apnea. About sixteen years ago, while I was in the throws of a major, nocturnal attack and didn’t know if I would survive through the night, the Lord gave me a song entitled “Safe into the Arms of Jesus” and these are its words:

“Safe into the arms of Jesus, safe into His arms I’ll go.
There all sin and shame will leave me; grace and peace and joy I’ll know.
When this pain-filled life is over and my Savior calls me home;
Then, I’ll touch the face of Jesus, and safe into His arms I’ll go.”
© 1987-2004 – Margie Y. Cash

When I wrote this chorus in 1987, I had no idea that I would be singing it at the graveside service of my granddaughter on July 10, 2003. On the morning of July 4th, Amber Lynn (a neurologically disabled child) became accidentally wedged between her bed and the wall and suffocated before Chip and Jamie found her in full cardiac arrest. Chip and I performed CPR until the paramedics arrived and got her heart beating again, but after life-flighting her to the Children’s Hospital at Scottish Rite in Atlanta, her brain eventually started swelling, and she was pronounced dead on July 7th.

Of all that I have been through in my life to date, this has been the hardest challenge, but also, perhaps the greatest blessing. Coming to terms with Amber’s death and giving her back to God has been a bitter-sweet experience for us, and it has helped us to intimately understand the Scriptural references to “the fellowship of His suffering” as Jesus prepared to die on the cross for the sins of the world. I am so thankful that God gave us those four days in the ICU to pray for Amber and each other. After our initial hysteria at the thought of losing her, each of us, individually, whispered into Amber’s ear that if she had already seen Jesus and her new body and wanted to stay in Heaven with Him that it was okay for her to stay, even though we wanted, desperately,  for her to stay here on earth with us! We will always miss Amber Lynn, but we know in our hearts that we will see her again in Heaven someday. If you’re interested, there’s a memorial website for her at www.amberlynncash.com (the website is a work-in-progress, so check back from time-to-time as we’ll be adding new content).

In closing, Philippians 4:13 is my life verse and my confidence to keep living this life until Christ returns, or until I go to be with Him in Heaven when I die. Thanks for contacting me, and I hope that you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And, blessings to your congregation too!

Regards,
Margie

http://margiecash.com

After receiving my email, Pastor Shimer responded a couple of days later with the following note:

Dear Margie,

You have honored me with your story.  Thank you.  What a triumph is Jesus as He as walked with you through so many valleys and onto the firm ground of His great love.  Yes it is true that the best is our testifying to all we have with Him.  What a great loss in your granddaughter’s death.  I am thankful to hear how Jesus has walked you through this grief.  I have prayed for you and your family this a.m. What a journey you have had in your life.  25 surgeries --  yikes!  -- I am thankful for the grace of God to see you through them all!  I will look forward to the advent of your book.  I applaud your ability to get into print that which you have experienced as a testimony and blessing to others.  

Sometimes the Lord’s healing of our lives does not come through the miraculous, but through the journey.  God honors the walk we have to the healing.  My wife and I have learned so much about his willingness to walk us into healing.  We too have had plenty through which to experience the Lord’s healing with sexual abuse and homosexual gender confusion between us in our backgrounds.  But how magnificent is His healing and His power and majesty.  God is good and able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask, think or imagine according to His power at work within us.  We too can testify to his ability to heal and deliver.  I remember asking him to just take the homosexual confusion from my heart and he answered:  “Child, were I to do so all at once, it would kill you.”  The confusion was interlaced in my heart and life so thoroughly.  So instead of that instantaneous killing healing, the Lord walked me through facing the pain, dealing with my sin, encountering the memories, forgiving the hurts, and walking in healing relationships which through His love repaired the damage and the pain.

In ‘99 I was at a Dennis Jernigan concert (a Christian singer, do you know him?  Wonderful music) and he said, “If anyone is struggling with shame, stand and I’ll sing a song over you.”  I thought smugly, “I have not shame to deal with, I’ll just stay seated.”  Immediately Jesus showed me a memory that returned with great shame.  I stood.  And the Lord marched me through many, many memories each with the same kind of shame in different kinds of situations from sexual sin to preaching moments of humiliation, while Dennis sang.  In every memory, there was Jesus, the Shepherd, behind me, his hand on my shoulder uprooting the shame.  It was a marvelous healing.  After a 20 year journey, that night I was delivered from the last of the remnant of shame and He launched me into a path of new healing.

Marvelous is His healing Love.

I will be quoting from part of your testimony in the message on Phil 4:13 – which will be Jan 4th.  Since you are writing this into a book, I assume you do not need your name withheld?  I am thinking you would want folk to be able to connect to your webpage if they wanted and be able to learn how to get that book when it is published!  If I am mistaken, let me know sister! 

May the Lord Jesus continue to bless and cause you to discover even more how much you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  

My life verse is in the same book chapter 3:12:  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Just think of all that Jesus has dreamed of your life and mine and taken hold of us to achieve that we are walking out!  It seems that is Paul’s perspective here.  Paul did not want to release that high calling but wanted to run into the fulfillment of it!

Again, God’s best to you. Thank you for your response!

Brian

In preparing to publish my Yuletide Anthology this year, I decided to include my email exchange with Brian Shimer because it expresses what’s been on my heart and mind as I’ve reflected on the events of 2003. Of course, I asked for and received Pastor Shimer’s consent before including his testimony to me; but, he was quick to approve its inclusion. It’s amazing how God can bring two people together via the Internet; one in Oregon, and one in Georgia, who have never met, but can share in the most private details of each other’s lives through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I would encourage each of you to visit the website of Banks Community United Methodist Church at: http://www.bcumc.net/. While Amber’s death has truly crushed our spirits in many ways, her three-year-old brother, Jacob, has kept us going with his innocent charm and incredibly mature understanding of Amber’s passing. You see, Jacob was there when Amber died and was revived, lingered for four days in ICU, and then died again. He saw it all and seemingly understood when we told him that Amber had left us to go and live with Jesus. At times, when we feel aggravated and out of sorts, Jacob is always there to ask, “Do you miss Amber?” He also asks about our missing Porgy (a.k.a. George) our 13-year-old Chow-Chow, who also died this year. In retrospect, we lost three Chow-Chows (George, Gracie, and Lazarus [who died first when he froze to death at birth in 1992, but was revived on a heating pad!]); one cat (Rascal); my elderly aunt and legal ward, Frances, (a.k.a. “Sister”); and my best friend and granddaughter, Amber Lynn, all in one twelve-month period of time! When Jacob asks if we miss Amber, we always admit that we do and ask him if he misses her too. This gives us an opportunity to help him process his grief over the loss of Amber, who thought he was a really funny and entertaining little brother! Below is Jacob’s third birthday picture on June 23, 2003:

I couldn’t be prouder of Jamie, Chip and Jacob as the events of 2003 have unfolded. Amber was a disabled child, but she had a family divinely enabled by God to love and nurture her throughout her short life. Jamie and Chip did everything they could do for Amber. From the time she was born, she was loved and cherished as a precious gift, despite her disabilities. And, they never gave up trying to find help for her, which required spending many hours in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and on the Internet doing research about her condition. In the final analysis, we believed Amber to have a condition called Angelman Syndrome (she had ALL the symptoms!), but our search for an official diagnosis was never completed. Only God knows for sure, but it’s a moot point anyway because she has a new and perfect body in Heaven!

Due to an ongoing financial crisis that has spanned several years, we were unable to afford a headstone for Amber’s grave. But, the Lord provided a headstone through a women’s prayer group that Jamie attended at Mount Paran North in the fall. We are so grateful to those ladies for their love and generosity and pray that God’s blessings will be returned to them a hundred fold!

For those of you who sent money, food, flowers, cards, notes, and other expressions of condolences to me or Chip, Jamie, and Jacob, I am eternally grateful for your kindness as well. For the past six months, I have been in an extended mode of recovery from surgery on both of my hands. I had to have both thumb joints replaced and carpal tunnel syndrome repaired in each hand. Originally, the first surgery was scheduled for July 10th, but it had to be postponed because of Amber’s funeral. So, I have been in and out of casts and/or splints for much of the time since the funeral. If I did not send you a written thank you note or an email before now, I hope you can accept this as a sincere expression of appreciation for your tangible gifts, your words of encouragement, and your prayers for us. They comforted us greatly (more than you can possibly know!), and I thank God for your having taken the time to bless us with your unique expressions of love during this sad, sad time in our lives. May God bless you each a hundred fold!

In a very practical sense, we have realized that “life goes on,” despite the loss of Amber. In October of 2003, God brought another move into our lives. Due to Chip’s lay-off as a UPS driver shortly after 9/11, Internet downturns, and my dependence on disability income, the expenses of our adjoining townhomes at Mountain Chase was more than we could bear, individually, so the Lord provided a house for us off of Main Street in an older section of Cartersville (exactly where we wanted to be!).

Unlike my house on Vanessa Drive (where I lived for twenty years in Smyrna), this split-level house has a mother-in-law suite downstairs, equipped with a separate kitchen, living quarters, handicap-friendly entrances, and its own fireplace! We truly love this house and hope that God will enable us to stay here for the long-haul!

While we were moving, Chip was reinstated as a UPS driver, so we believe that God must have wanted us back together for the timing of our move to have worked out the way it did. We are now able to share expenses, and we got this house for slightly more than just one of our townhomes was costing us. Also, we realized, through the loss of Amber, just how much we need to be together as a family!

We are encouraged for 2004 as we begin the year with a new family business, ALCME, Inc., which is an acronym for Amber Lynn Cash Memorial Enterprises. We started this business to keep the memory of Amber alive in our day-to-day activities and to allow our memories of her to motivate us to even greater achievement for the future. We feel that by associating our business with Amber's memory that we will be forever bonded to her sweetness and her innocent charm in everything that we do.

So, what is the business of ALCME, Inc.? First, it is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! Second, our mission is to publish. We feel that it is the duty of over-comers to share their experiences with others, so we will publish websites, books, music, poetry, human interest stories, and testimonials. Third, we will engage in various services and activities for profit. Some of our specialties include: professional and technical writing, website design and hosting, musical composition and performance, management information systems consulting, life skills and career counseling, and motivational speaking. Finally, we will donate our services, talents, and skills to select organizations o­n a not-for-profit basis. At times, we will make cash contributions to these organizations; at other times, we will donate our services at reduced rates or for "free" because we tithe both our time and our money to such organizations, and we offer discounts     o­nce our tithe has been met. For those of you who have access to the Internet, our corporate website is located at: http://alcme.com. Be sure and register so we can add you to our email database for family and friends.

This newsletter would be incomplete without my updating you on Jacob. At the rate he’s growing, I’m predicting that he will be at least 6’8” when he’s grown! As most of you know, he was born with size 2 feet and enormous hands; he is also tall and husky, weighing about 50 pounds now! When Amber went to Heaven, Jacob was only two inches shorter than she was, but he weighed more and had bigger feet, even though she was almost two years his senior! He also has gorgeous blue eyes, a charming smile, and an outgoing personality that should carry him far in life. “Jakie J.” (as we call him) is already excited about going to school and tells us he’s going to ride the school bus “alone.” I remember the day Chip went to first grade; he came home and asked “how soon before I can quit?” Fortunately, Jacob seems to have a totally different slant on going to school (thank the Lord!).

Well, I think this is the “longest” Yuletide Anthology that I’ve ever written! And, even though it’s being sent later than I’d planned, I hope that it reaches you having experienced a blessed holiday season in 2003. In closing, I’d like to wish each of you a very prosperous and productive new year.  I’m writing the last few words of this newsletter on January 15th, and my thoughts and prayers are with each of you.

Love in Christ, 

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